Alexander, Samuel (1859–1938)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC001-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

1. Space, time and deity

Alexander was born in Sydney, Australia, came to Balliol College, Oxford, and was subsequently Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester. His metaphysics rested on the concept of a Space-Time continuum ordered in four-dimensional perspectives from ‘point-instants’, which are not extended events, but limiting cases of ‘motions’, his term for the actual differentiations within Space-Time. These motions form patterns, the most general of which, notably causation, are all-pervasive categories. As a direct realist, he claimed that these categories were discerned, not imposed, by conceptual schemes. More specific motions in Space-Time displayed patterns in which distinctive qualities emerged at certain levels of organization. ‘Matter’, with its inertial properties, is the lowest level; certain of its complexes display the new quality ‘life’, and some of these display a further quality ‘mind’. This view is a form of evolutionary naturalism, but not materialism, since ‘matter’ is the name for certain qualities from which further qualities of life and mind emerge, and these latter are not reducible to the former. Moreover, the basic reality is not matter but Space-Time.

Space-Time is not a closed system within which there can be redistributions of spatiotemporal coefficients. Its temporal aspect makes it an ongoing process in which there is a ‘nisus’ towards the production of new qualities. Beyond those known to us, there may be one, as yet unrealized, called ‘Deity’. ‘Deity’ is not God as existent, but a quality towards which we can aspire.

Citing this article:
Emmet, Dorothy. Space, time and deity. Alexander, Samuel (1859–1938), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC001-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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